Have you ever wondered if Margaret Thatcher ever met Sir Winston Churchill? If you search, you’ll find that nobody really knows. However, one person does know; Edmund Murray, Churchill’s last bodyguard. Also, What happened when Winston Churchill demanded to see his bodyguard’s latest paintings?
This is the third and final part of the Edmund Murray trilogy. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have. It started with some writing on a wall and led me down an amazing rabbit hole leading to the story of Winston Churchill's Last Bodyguard. I learned so much, as well as meeting two wonderful people, Bill Murray and his wife Carolyn, along the way. Thank you, Bill, for sharing some of your father’s wonderful journey with us.
Churchill's Bodyguard Find out more about Edmund's extraordinary life in his own words.
Churchill’s Legionnaire If you wondered why Edmund left his family and a comfortable job at the age of 19 to join the French Foreign Legion, then take a look at his detailed account. Written by Edmund Murray, edited by Bill Murray.
Last week's episode
[Episode 13] Edmund, Churchill and Onassis - Edmund Murray was Winston Churchill’s last bodyguard and as such he witnessed situations and events like no other. What happened when Mrs Onassis, Maria Callas and Jackie Kennedy ended up on the yacht Christina at the same time? What really happened to Churchill’s budgerigar?
Next week's episode
[Episode 15] Extroverts Don't Need Any Help - How are your communication skills these days? No, I don’t mean public speaking or standing up to make a presentation. How are you communicating with your spouse, your children, and your postman? Brenden Kumarasamy, the founder of MasterTalk and top communications coach, shares some simple tips for us all. He’s a blast, by the way. His comments on introverts are hilarious (and I’m one!)
Contact Batting the Breeze:
- Email us at email@example.com
- Chat with us on Facebook
Thanks for listening!
[00:00:00] Steve: On one occasion, just after Edmund had had three of his paintings rejected by the Royal Academy, Churchill said that he would like to see them. Edmund brought them in and leaned them against three chairs in the room.
[00:00:17] Steve: Churchill looked at the paintings [00:00:20] one at a time. He looked at the first...
[00:00:23] Churchill: " Very good".
[00:00:25] Steve: He looked at the second.
[00:00:26] Churchill: " Very, very good".
[00:00:29] Steve: He looked at the third,
[00:00:31] Churchill: " Excellent. You know, they are much better than mine".
[00:00:36] Steve: Then he sort of giggled and with his eyes [00:00:40] squeezed up and shining impishly said...
[00:00:43] Churchill: " Mm-hmm, but yours are judged on their merit". [00:01:00] [00:01:20]
[00:01:29] Steve: This is the third part of a trilogy of short stories looking at the life of Edmund Murray, Sir Winston Churchill's last bodyguard [00:01:40] from 1950 to 1965. If you've got time, pop back to the previous two episodes to catch up, you won't be disappointed. We've been looking at those unreported, and often unknown, happenings that Edmund was able to experience in his [00:02:00] privileged position so close to Churchill. And once again, I'm indebted to Bill Murray, Edmund Murray's son, for helping me along this wonderful journey.
[00:02:11] Steve: From time to time, you'll hear the [00:02:20] question asked, "Did Winston Churchill ever meet Margaret Thatcher", two prime ministerial titans of British politics in the 20th century? If you search, what you'll discover is that nobody really knows. But Edmund does. Here's [00:02:40] the story.
[00:02:41] Steve: In 1964 on one occasion, on her way home, Edmund's daughter Aileen became aware of a man stalking her close behind. Fortunately, she was able to reach the safety of a private house and called her dad. Edmund, in turn, called the police but after [00:03:00] some searching, they found nothing. Edmund noticed that the railings around the small wood from which his daughter had run, were in a terrible state and believed these were partly to blame for his daughter's scare.
[00:03:12] Steve: He pursued the matter with the MP for Finchley, a certain Margaret Thatcher. The [00:03:20] next day she visited Edmund personally and promised to act. New railings had been erected within a few weeks, and the wood was now only open during daylight hours. A short time later, Edmund saw Mrs. Thatcher in the House of Commons and took the opportunity to thank her. Subsequently , each [00:03:40] time they passed in the corridors, they stopped briefly for an exchange.
[00:03:44] Steve: (TRANSITION) In his final years, Churchill seemed content to spend time in the House of Commons, usually in the Member's Smoking Room. When they reached the Smoking Room [00:04:00] door, Edmund would transfer Churchill's arm to a Member to guide him to his seat. He would then stand on watch in the corridor observing through the half glass door of the Smoking Room as various members sat with Churchill batting the breeze.
[00:04:16] Steve: He watched over many such gatherings, [00:04:20] remembering one specifically when Churchill sat with his whisky and soda in the company of Lord Clement Atlee, Mr. Harold McMillan and Sir Alec Douglas Home. Three ex-prime ministers and a current one around the same table.
[00:04:35] Bill: Part of Dad's duties was to learn the procedures [00:04:40] of Parliament, so as Churchill was in the right place at the right time. And that was quite a lot of work really to actually understand the workings of parliament when you'd had no background in that sort of life. And also to recognize politicians, even to help Sir Winston sometimes to recognize politicians [00:05:00] on sight, especially some of the newer politicians.
[00:05:03] Steve: So onto that question about whether Sir Winston ever met Margaret Thatcher. Well, in 1950, Churchill had heard of Mrs. Thatcher. He'd written to the [00:05:20] electors of the Dartford constituency in support of Margaret Roberts as she was at the time, when she first stood for Parliament in that year.
[00:05:29] Churchill: We have set out the methods by which we Conservatives intend- if returned to power - to restore our national finances, regain our [00:05:40] independence, and set our country once more on the highway to eventual prosperity. Ms. Margaret Roberts, the Conservative candidate, is pledged to support this policy, which I commend to you. I ask you to give her your votes in the full confidence that she will discharge her parliamentary [00:06:00] duties by combining the care of your interests with the interest of the British nation.
[00:06:06] Steve: She didn't win, but one of the prospective candidates commented, Once she opened her mouth, the rest of us began to look rather second rate". It wasn't until 1959 when she was [00:06:20] first elected to Parliament in that Finchley seat. And the rest is history.
[00:06:26] Steve: One day while Edmund was guarding that door to the Smoking Room, Mrs. Thatcher came by and looked through the window towards Churchill. Edmund encouraged her to go in, but she was too [00:06:40] shy. Hard to believe for some I know.
[00:06:43] Steve: However, there was one particular day when she came past the Smoking Room just as Edmund and Churchill were on their way out to the car. With great pleasure, Edmund introduced Churchill to the lady who would one day fill the seat [00:07:00] that he had been so proud to hold as Prime Minister. They shook hands, and Sir Winston beamed at her as Edmund explained how helpful she'd been to his family.
[00:07:12] Steve: And then they moved on. As I said, it's [00:07:20] widely believed that a meeting between these two giants never took place. But it did and Edmund may have been the only [00:07:40] individual to ever witness this delightful moment.
[00:07:44] Steve: Edmund was Churchill's bodyguard, but over time, particularly in those later years, he became much more.[00:08:00] He was with Churchill for so many of the waking hours, but perhaps the pivotal activity that brought them closest together was art.
[00:08:10] Bill: My mother had given Dad, in August 1950, a set of oil paints because my father was a very good painter and... but he hadn't [00:08:20] painted in oils. And my mother thought, "I suppose that if you're gonna be Churchill's bodyguard, then you've gotta know something about oil paints, and Dad did know about it.
[00:08:30] Steve: Ironically, it was Churchill's reaction to the defeat at Gallipoli, which led to his first opportunity to experience painting; [00:08:40] watercolors at first, but then soon after oils.
[00:08:44] Bill: Dad had only been working as Churchill's bodyguard for just about a year, I think, when one of his... the things that he had to do was to set out Sir Winston's paints and as I see it, none of the other bodyguards - this is [00:09:00] in 1950-1951 and in Venice - I think the other bodyguards were a bit scared about how to actually set their easel up, which was quite complicated. And also to set out the paints for Sir Winston.
[00:09:14] Bill: He set up the easel and the paints in exactly the way Sir [00:09:20] Winston directed. And if ever you see a picture of his easel and his paints, you'll see how complicated it is. And also things like... linseed oil and turps had to be in small containers. And the whole paraphernalia of Churchill's[00:09:40] easel and paints was complicated, very bulky as well. But... he knew how he wanted it and that was the only way that it could be set up. The canvasses, he had a canvas supplier in, in London, and again, they all had to be counted. They all had to be the right size.
[00:09:58] Steve: Churchill's [00:10:00] art continues to provide fascination and enjoyment today. Most critics reluctantly concede to there being real quality in his work, though I think everyone would agree that their continued high profile relies heavily on other factors as Churchill himself [00:10:20] acknowledged to Edmund.
[00:10:21] Steve: On one occasion, just after Edmund had had three of his paintings rejected by the Royal Academy, Churchill said that he would like to see them. Edmund brought them in and leaned them against three chairs in the room.
[00:10:37] Steve: Churchill looked at the paintings [00:10:40] one at a time. He looked at the first...
[00:10:43] Churchill: " Very good".
[00:10:45] Steve: He looked at the second.
[00:10:47] Churchill: " Very, very good".
[00:10:49] Steve: He looked at the third,
[00:10:51] Churchill: " Excellent. You know, they are much better than mine".
[00:10:56] Steve: Then he sort of giggled and with his eyes [00:11:00] squeezed up and shining impishly said...
[00:11:03] Churchill: " Mm-hmm, but yours are judged on their merit".
[00:11:13] Bill: Churchill gave Dad a camera to reconnaissance the scenes in terms of [00:11:20] access, safety and also the scene as well because once you'd set up this easel, you didn't wanna move it, you can be sure of that. Churchill understood Dad, Dad understood exactly what Churchill wanted and needed. And so this was a very important part of the way the two [00:11:40] of them connected and became good friends.
[00:11:46] Bill: I think that it was really that trip to Venice when they did connect and it was quite difficult for Dad. It would've been very difficult for for a person who wasn't interested in art and didn't understand the [00:12:00] techniques of oil painting, to stand behind Sir Winston, day after day watching him paint.
[00:12:07] Bill: Obviously Dad had to do other things as well in... terms of.. security and safety. And they talked a lot about painting. Churchill would ask Dad what he thought of how he was [00:12:20] painting it. And the two of them would have conversations about the scene and about the content of the painting. You can only really do that if you've got a good relationship and if you understand what you're talking about. And that really was, I think, the main connection between [00:12:40] the two of them, the real... the real thing that bonded them. And to help Churchill from 1950 till when he stopped painting in 1962, it really was very, very important.
[00:12:53] Steve: Edmund Murray had a privileged position to protect, and from which to observe, Sir [00:13:00] Winston Churchill for the final 15 years of his life. As we've seen, he witnessed events that nobody else did. He became evermore indispensable as those years passed. And yes, they became friends.
[00:13:17] Steve: In fact, when I read the account of Churchill's [00:13:20] death in Edmund's autobiography, I felt a far greater sorrow for the end of that friendship than I did for the Nation's loss, and even for his family.
[00:13:31] Steve: I asked Bill to try and offer what his father's final reflections of Churchill may have been:
[00:13:38] Bill: He would...... shout at [00:13:40] people. But all of Churchill's staff respected Sir Winston and they would do what he wanted, even though it was some of these things were really extraordinary. It was just part of being a part of the Churchill household. And they stayed with him until he died, the staff did. They were very loyal to Sir [00:14:00] Winston and he was in turn loyal to them.
[00:14:03] Bill: He didn't conform, other things were more important. It's why, in 1945, the Allies won the war. If he had been a conformist and if he just had followed the same pattern that everybody else was supposed to follow, then we probably wouldn't [00:14:20] have come out of the war on the right side.
[00:14:22] Steve: And from my perspective, that's a fitting way to draw this chapter to a close. It started with some writing on a wall, and it's ended for me with a fascinating body of knowledge that I would never have obtained [00:14:40] otherwise. And of course I've also met two lovely people, Bill Murray and his wife Carolyn.
[00:14:47] Steve: I've had a glimpse of Churchill from a previously unseen perspective. I've seen how two people from quite different starting positions have ended up in the same spot at the [00:15:00] same time, and over time have grown closer together, to the benefit of both.
[00:15:06] Steve: And when I'm next contemplating the great unsung partnerships in history, I'll quietly raise a glass to Sir Winston Churchill and Edmund Murray.[00:15:20]
Here are some great episodes to start with. Or, check out episodes by topic.